If you haven't already noticed, Amazon is dedicated to putting its Alexa AI assistant in almost every device possible – from speakers to refrigerators to cars. It also also reportedly has plans to put them in smartglasses, though that might be a little further away.
Or is it? LET Labs is looking to beat Amazon to the punch with its new pair of LET Glasses featuring Alexa, available on Indiegogo now for $119. Thy look like a pair of stylish glasses, with the added bonuses of Alexa, bone conduction audio and gesture controls.
Muller Sun, CEO of LET Labs, tells Wareable that the Alexa-infused smartglasses were actually inspired by Amazon itself, rather than the desire to simply make dumb glasses smart. Sun had started to play around with an Amazon Echo, but found that not being able to use it outdoors restricted its usability. He wanted to create a portable Echo, but not something like a speaker. Something like Google Glass.
To activate Alexa, all you have to do is double tap the right side of the glasses and then talk, no "Alexa" wake word required. Control your smart home products, order pizza, ask for the weather, buy things on Amazon and basically do everything else you already do on your Echo device.
The bone conduction technology beams music directly into your ear canal via your bones, and the built-in microphone means you can take hands-free calls (and speak to Alexa, of course). Oh, there are also some navigation powers and light activity tracking.
If you're not into Alexa, you can also access either Siri or Google Assistant. To do that, you just have to hold on the right side of the glasses for about three seconds. That touch area on the right side, by the way, also has swipe-based gestures for raising and lowering volume and skipping music tracks.
Seeing as smartglasses need to look good, there are three frame options. There's the basic option, which sees half the glass framed, and then there are modern and classic flavors, which look a bit like Ray-Bans. Each of those frame options comes with a couple of lens options, including polarized, blue light filter and photochromic transition lenses. LET says you'll get about 10 days of battery life from the glasses, and it's got a sensor that'll turn on the glasses when they're on your head to help out with that.
All of this begs the question: If Amazon is planning on making its own pair of Alexa-infused smartglasses, is LET Labs worried it might get overshadowed? Sun certainly doesn't seem worried about it.
"When we were developing this product, no one else was proposing similar ideas or concepts," Sun tells Wareable. "We only knew that Amazon was probably developing its own device, but they were in the development stages only. What matters is who first finalises this product, attracts the first users and therefore becomes the lead in the industry. Even though we're a startup company, we're agile enough to make rapid changes at a lower cost. So we have more of an advantage."
LET Labs is certainly confident, but Amazon also has a history of developing relatively cheap hardware in an effort to bolster its ecosystems. Plus, it has the reach of, you know, Amazon.com to get its product into the hands of millions of users relatively quickly. LET Labs is going to need a whole lot of success to be able to beat Amazon to the punch. And that brings us to our final question.
A question not even Alexa could answer. LET Labs is certainly confident it can get this done, and that it can get this done quickly. It's promising to deliver these devices in the next five months, with Sun telling Wareable that its partnership with MOU, a lens provider, and its three prototypes means it's well prepared to ship.
At the same time, LET is looking to the future, hoping it can also eventually bundle in augmented reality features, though Sun admits that doing this is incredibly difficult. At the end of the day though, this all comes back down to Amazon.
Would you rather wait and see what Amazon has cooked up in the smartglasses space, or do you want to get a small preview of what's possible when Alexa is sitting on the bridge of your nose?
And on the other side, there are also glasses from the likes of Vue, who aren't exactly doing Alexa-enabled smartglasses but are making smartglasses that allow you to listen to audio via bone conduction, and are also getting ready to ship in the next couple of months.
LET is promising its glasses in the next five months, and according to early reports there was a good chance we'd see Amazon's option by the end of 2017. However, with 2018 rolling around Amazon smartglasses could show up very soon. If you're not able to get the LET Glasses for the early adopter price, then you might as well try waiting for Amazon's version.
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